New Who Review: The Day of the Doctor
It’s not often you get to describe an event as being fifty years in the making. even less so do you get to mean it. Three Doctors in three timelines converge to give them all a chance to change a terrible moment in their collective past.
The Day of the Doctor
by Steven Moffat
Directed by Nick Hurran
The Doctor is in the present, in his most recent incarnation, picking up Clara, when he gets picked up himself, by UNIT, to investigate a mystery at the National Museum. Meanwhile (well, I say meanwhile…) in his previous incarnation, he’s investigating a mystery in Elizabethan Britain, an attack by the Zygons that could lead all the way to the Queen herself. And in another part of the Universe entirely, The War Doctor is making a decision that will put the lives of countless innocents in his hands, a choice that will darken and color his life for centuries to come.
Considering that it is physically impossible to create an episode that has everyone and everything that every fan wants, this episode was as close to perfect as could be. It embraced plotlines that were started in the Davies era, tied in moments and points in Moffat’s own time of running the show, and did a job of undoing a dark moment in The Doctor’s history worthy of Geoff Johns. I screamed out loud three times, and it would have been four, if one fellow had been able to keep his mouth shut.
THE MONSTER FILES: The Zygons only got one appearance in the original series, the eponymous Terror of the Zygons, but it was enough to keep the popular in the alternative media for years. Shapeshifting beings, they invade by taking over from within, taking the forms of important people. They got an off-camera return in The Power of Three as they tried to invade during Amy and Rory’s second honeymoon.
BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS:Trivia and production details
Oh my GOD is this gonna be a long one. This episode is packed with self-references and tips of the hat, as well as calling back to points from many other episodes. I’ll see if I can hit them all…
THE QUESTION ISN’T WHERE, IT’S WHEN: More precisely, from when. Matt Smith’s Doctor is clearly experiencing this adventure in the “present,” as in after the events of the last season. Considering Ten(nant) is traveling alone, and is having the adventure he refers to when talking to Ood Sigma in the beginning of The End of Time, he’s clearly from a period between The Waters of Mars and that episode. We don’t know exactly how much time he spent gallivanting about between those episodes, clearly long enough for his memories of the details of this paradoxical adventure (while still remembering the bits about the Virgin Queen) that he still saw a need to re-imprison the Time Lords with the help of The Master.
Similarly, The War Doctor is experiencing this adventure at the end of this regeneration. But while we saw his “birth” in the Paul McGann mini-episode, we don’t know exactly how long he has been around, fighting in (and against) the Time War. He was in his seven hundreds at the end of the original series, and nine hundred at the beginning of the new, so there’s quite a lot of years to spread around between Seven, Eight, and The War Doctor.
So in brief, we’re seeing all three Doctors having this adventure very near the end of their respective regenerations. So each of them have seen all they’re going to see through their eyes, and that’s about the best time.
CALL FOR THE DOCTOR QUICK, QUICK, QUICK: Kate Stewart, the head of UNIT, daughter of The Brig, has a custom ring for The Doctor on her phone.
Also, note that The Doctor’s number is once again 07700900461, as it was in The Stolen Earth. About 2500 people thought that might be a working number (at least for a tie-in recording or bit of marketing, anyway) when that adventure aired, and tried calling it. no idea how many will try it this time.
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be: Be one”: They hit the ground running with the self-references. I.M. Foreman‘s scrap yard was where we first met the Doctor, Susan and the TARDIS, lo those fifty years ago. Susan attended Coal Hill secondary school, where she aroused the curiosity of teachers Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton, who as we see here, now serves as headmaster. Sarah Jane Smith did a bit of investigating, and tracked down Ian and Barbara (now Barbara Chesterton), and reported to her son Luke that they no longer appear to age. Also, notice that as we see Clara erasing the quote from Marcus Aurelius on her whiteboard, the words “NO MORE” are in the center of the screen.
“Draft”: The Triumph Clara’s driving is the one The Doctor drove up the side of The Shard in The Bells of Saint John. When last we saw Clara and The Doctor, she was not getting along with the TARDIS, now she’d shutting the doors with a click of her fingers. Clearly quite some time has passed since the events of The Name of the Doctor – enough time for her to get a job as a teacher, and to make peace with the TARDIS. And yet she and The Doctor still keep their “See you next Wednesday” relationship, as it’s clear she’s not traveling with him regularly, tho she has no problem with picking up and running when he pops by.
“Tell Malcolm we need new batteries” – Malcolm Taylor is the acting scientific advisor for UNIT, and was played by Lee Evans in Planet of the Dead, and when I heard his name, I let loose with my third-loudest shout of the evening. If you folks think you were upset that Rose or Eccleston didn’t appear…
And those are presumably the “Ravens of Death” she claimed to have in The Power of Three.
“Nice Scarf” – Considering what we appear to learn at the end of the episode, that scarf MAY not be a replica. It might have been a gift. From the original owner.
There’s a bit of debate going on as to exactly who Osgood is. Rich Johnson at Bleeding Cool seems to believe that she’s Kate’s daughter – while her first line was her calling “Mum”, I took that to mean the honorific “Ma’am”, and not “Mom”. But we both noticed there was a UNIT tech named Tom Osgood in The Daemons, and a few of the prose stories, so that seems a more possible guess on her father, anyway.
“I’d be brilliant at having a job”: Well, he really does work for UNIT, when he’s around, and he did pretty well in the two jobs he took when he was helping Craig Owen in The Lodger and Closing Time.
“The High Council is in emergency session, they have plans of their own”: Those would be the plans set into action in The End of Time. We first heard of The Moment in that episode, as it too took place (partly, in flashback) during the end of the Time War.
“The Doctor has The Moment”: In a delightful bit of ingenious design, the initial gear-like design for of The Moment somewhat resembles the Antikythera mechanism, an Out Of Place Artifact found in Greece that (theoretically) could plot the positions of the stars to astounding accuracy.
“The interface is hot”: For those who are grousing that Billie Piper is not playing Rose, not my comment above. If we were watching an adventure where The Doctor was traveling with Rose, we’d be watching a Doctor who had not yet met Martha, Donna Noble, the crew of Bowie Base One, a Doctor who had, in short, barely begun to live. This was a way to have Billie a part of the show, while still giving us the best Doctor to experience the story. Also note that it’s a lovely parallel to Ten meeting Rose at the end of The End of Time, before they’ve met in that first adventure, Rose. The War Doctor meets her (or at least sees her visage) before he regenerates and meets (and saves) her in that department store. So once again, The Bad Wolf was guiding them all to fulfill the almost predestined moment so far in the future.
“Elizabeth the First…you knew her, then?”: Based on what we see here, and what Ten implies later, we shall have to leave tactfully alone the question of what definition of “knew” is being used here… This is England 1562, 37 years before The Shakespeare Code, where we “First” meet the queen, and The Doctor is totally unaware of why she’d be so angry at him. I expect that happens a lot.
It’s a machine that goes “ding”: It’s presumably similar to The Machine That Goes “Ding” When There’s Stuff, as seen in Blink. While that one was more tuned to temporal anomalies, this one is attuned to physical ones, like the energy expended by a shapeshifting alien.
“Is it important?” “In 1,200 years, I haven’t stepped in anything that wasn’t”” Another callback, this time to A Christmas Carol, when he said it about people.
“I need you to send me one of my father’s incident files”: She is almost certainly asking for the files on the incident we know as The Three Doctors, the tenth anniversary adventure. As they had to do in the past, they had to come up with a way around using one Doctor, but not for the same reason. William Hartnell was not well at the time, an advancement of the illness that cause him to leave the show in the first place. So he was not able to take an active part in the story, instead relegated to appearing via the scanner screen. Ten years later, Tom Baker wasn’t able to appear in The Five Doctors, so they used footage from Shada in his stead. Hartnell had already passed, so Richard Hurndall took on the role of the First Doctor.
For all the grousing many fans are making that they “left out Eccleston” from this adventure, it’s been verified via the man himself and he chose not to participate in the episode. His departure from the series was not entirely cordial; no firm details have come to light because he’s a professional, but it’s generally understood there was no small amount of bad blood.
The reference to “Seventies or eighties, depending” is a sly nod to the fact that the Pertwee years of the show were filmed in the seventies, but were supposed to be taking place an unspecified number of years in the future, to try and explain the higher tech items that were sprinkled around.
“Reverse the polarity”: “Reverse the polarity of the Neutron Flow” was one of Jon Pertwee’s legendary catch phrases, but like “Beam me up Scotty”, usually misremembered. That exact phrase was only used once in the series, and as a hat tip in The Five Doctors”, it was the shorter quote used here that got used in numerous episodes.
“Why are you pointing your screwdrivers like that?”: The War Doctor gives voice to many of the complaints old-guard fans have had about the new series – all the kissing, the Sonic Screwdriver acting more like a weapon (and a magic wand), and much more. Not to mock the fans, but more to point out the fact that the creators know full well how much the show has changed. And indeed, it’s the constant change of the show that has kept it alive.
“We’ll need access to the Black Archive”: Of all the stuff in that warehouse, I spotted River Song’s Manolos, a Cyberman head, a Sontaran blaster and the chair they had Ten trussed up in in The End of Time, which at this point in time…hasn’t happened yet. The Black Archive first got mentioned on Sarah Jane Adventures, in the episode Enemy of the Bane, guest-starring Nicholas Courtney in his last appearances as The Brigadier.
“You have a top-level security rating from your last visit”: The question is, is that just a continuance of the fact that everyone has their memories wiped as they leave, one of the many times that Clara has appeared in The Doctor’s past, or a precursor to an upcoming story? Also on that board with the more recent Companions are Tegan Jovanka, Nyssa of Traken, Kamelion, Five’s short-lived android companion, even Ian and Barbara. Also, photographed with Captain Erisa Magambo is Rose Tyler…but there’s a problem there. The only time they met were in the alternate timeline of Turn Left. So…where did that photo come from?
“We don’t have the activation code”: The numbers The Doctor scratches into the wall of their cell is 1716231163. Or more clearly, 17:16 23/11/63, the exact date and time that episode one of An Unearthly Child was originally broadcast.
“Same software…different face”: We’re not talking about the screwdriver any more, are we, blondie? Because later on in the episode, we find out that in a very similar way, The Doctor has been mulling a problem over for the same 400 years, one that he gets to solve himself, not by someone just opening the right door at the last minute.
Moffat is so so good at playing with time as a plot point. Sending the activation code into the future by writing it on the wall, and the idea of the scan taking the long way round and finishing up just as it’s needed.
“Oh, you’ve redecorated…I don’t like it”: A twice-joked joke, back for a third time. Patrick Troughton said it about Jon Pertwee’s TARDIS in The Three Doctors, and Eleven said it about Craig’s home in Closing Time.
“At worst, we failed at doing the right thing, as opposed to succeeding in doing the wrong”: What this episode does is essentially undoes an act that The Doctor has regretted for centuries. But as is always true of situations like this, it has to be undone in a way so nobody KNOWS it was undone, otherwise any events springing from it will not happen as they did, and you get paradoxes springing up like dandelions. So that, more than any other, is why all the Doctors from the time The Moment was supposedly used had to believe they DID use it. Only until after the present Doctor lives through his portion of the history can he be allowed to remember. It’s a temporal version of eating your cake and having it too.
“Wearing a bit thin”: Which is exactly how Hartnell described himself shortly before the first regeneration in The Tenth Planet, ushering in the miracle that would keep the show going for five decades.
“I don’t want to go”: Technically, this is the first time he says that – he’ll say it again in The End of Time. They even worked it into the script of An Adventure in Space and Time.
“I could be a curator”: He is the Curator. The letter from Elizabeth I appoints The Doctor as official Curator of the Undergallery, “to be summoned in the event of any crises concerning it.” Now, how he gets all the way back around to the time, place and form we see here, well, that’s all the fun is finding out, isn’t it?
BIG BAD REPORT / CLEVER THEORY DEPARTMENT: For once, the arc of the upcoming season might be a positive. Gallifrey Falls No More, and clearly The Doctor wants to find it. But there’s a problem. They may not have been destroyed, but this is clearly still the Time Lords who saw no problem with breaking out of their temporal prison by destroying the Earth, with the goal of controlling all of time and space. Now one could argue that it was more the mad plans of the Lord President (played by Timothy Dalton in The End of Time) nd the rest of the Time Lords (save two) fell into line. But that’s an argument we heard around the middle of last century, and it didn’t fly too well or too often. If I have the timeline right, The Time Lords will be banished back into the Time Lock after EoT, and find almost immediately that their plan was unneeded, as The Doctor saves the planet and shunts it off somewhere. So in the time that has passed, have they come to their senses and spent their time rebuilding, or have the grown even more enraged as they pounded at the walls of their temporal prison? It’s the same question Wilf asked in EoT – will the Time Lords’ return be a good thing? A lot of possibilities.
“No , sir…all thirteen”: In two seconds, Peter Capaldi premiered as The Doctor, and his eyebrows have already garnered their own fandom. It also verifies what has been assumed to be true since new news of the New Doctor came out: The next Doctor is the last of his current cycle of regenerations. Moffat has stated clearly that the 12-regeneration limit is still in place, whimsical comment in Sarah Jane Adventures notwithstanding. So in addition to the search for Gallifrey, we’ll certainly hear more than a bit about him reaching the seeming end of his lives. One has to wonder if the resolution of one plotline will resolve the other.
NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO –
In the more short-term, Silence Will Fall.
See you back here at Christmas.